Managing DNS for your domain names: in simple terms

managing dns for your domain names doesn’t have to be complicated. This post explains how it works in simple terms. Let’s start with what DNS or domain name servers are.

DNS stands for Domain Name System and is a system that converts human-readable domain names into computer-readable IP addresses.

For example, when you type “www.google.com” into your web browser, DNS translates it into the IP address 74.125.224.72. This allows computers to find websites and other resources on the Internet.

DNS is a critical part of the Internet infrastructure and is used by most websites and applications. It is also used by email servers, firewalls, and other networking devices.

Pointing your domain at your web hosts name servers

Normally, when you purchase new web hosting, the web hosting provider asks you to update your domains name servers. You can do this by logging into your domain registrar and updating the name servers and entering your new web hosts name servers urls.

But actually, you do not need to change the name server for your domain. What you are actually doing is moving the management of your DNS to another server. The records in your DNS for example, A records, CNAME records, and MX records all have a purpose and can be managed by your domain registrar.

Sometimes it’s easier just to update the A record in your DNS from your registrar. This would involve just updating the IP address where your website will be hosted. Your email might be managed by another service, in which case you would need to update your MX records to point to the email server that’s hosting your email.

It’s very useful to get comfortable managing your domain’s DNS settings so that you can be more flexible on what services you can use with your single domain.

What are the reasons your domain name DNS record needs updating?

Email

You can easily be tricked into thinking that your web host needs to also manage your email. This is a very common mistake especially with shared hosting providers who do not provide a very secure email solution.

It’s easy to not realise that you can actually host your email more securely on another server by simply pointing your MX records at the email server.

You can manage your MX records at either the domain registrars DNS management or if if you did change the name servers for your domain, then you would need to change the MX records in your shared hosting control panel.

Subdomains

You can set up subdomains and point it to another web host elsewhere. For example, you might have an eCommerce store hosted at Wix but they do not provide you with a decent blogging platform.

In this case, you could set up a subdomain / A record at blog.yourdomain.com and point it at another server that is hosting your blogging site.

Some whitelabel affiliate programs also ask you to setup a CNAME record that points at their domain. This can also be easily setup by changing your domain names DNS.

DNS management tools

The most popular domain registrars like Godaddy and Namecheap provide tools to manage your DNS. Typical records you might want to update are:

  • A records are the most basic type of DNS record and are used to point a domain or subdomain to an IP address.
  • MX records are used to point a domain at an email server.
  • CNAME records (stands for Canonical Name) are used to point one domain name at another domain name.

If you did opt to point your domain at your web hosts name servers, then the same kind of DNS management tools will be available through the control panel, which is typically CPANEL.

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